Today, women make up a large portion of the workforce, with many leading major corporations (think: Ursula Burns with Xerox, Mary Barra with General Motors, or Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo). Like these varied industries, construction also benefits from having a wide range of voices at the table, but it has traditionally been slower to attract female participation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded in 2014 that of 9,813,000 people working in the construction industry, 872,000 (or 8.9%) of them were women. In 2015, the percentage increased to 9.3%. Although this appears to be a small fraction in comparison to the bigger picture, it does show some growth.
Realizing that the construction industry has lagged behind other industries in attracting females to the workforce, Rockford has worked hard to successfully recruit and retain a great number of female team members including project coordinators, project managers, superintendents, and executive team leaders.
Over the next couple months, we’ll share thoughts and stories from some of our own female team members as we explore what it’s like to be a woman thriving in the construction industry. Today we start with insights from Rockford’s CFO, Julie Towner.
An Interview with Julie Towner
Julie Towner's career began with laboratory research before she changed paths and joined a public accounting firm. She was then recruited to work for Rockford. Through Rockford’s growth, Julie began overseeing development and construction accounting. A few years later, Julie helped launch a property management division. She says, “I’ve done a lot here. As CFO, I have to have a global understanding of all departments…IT, HR, etc. I get to learn every facet of the company and it’s about understanding the company and the financial picture to make good business decisions.”
As a leader at Rockford Construction, Julie admits that she has never really labeled herself a “woman in construction.” Instead, she thought of herself as “a woman who wants to succeed in a career.” According to Julie, the way to gain this success is through hard work ethic, use of your brains, and being smart by knowing when to speak up; these are the things she claims helped propel her career forward. She says, “I was never afraid to take on a challenge. I wasn’t afraid to fail or to admit I was wrong. Being able to take a chance knowing it may be a real challenge essential.” From her experiences, her successes and willingness to take risks, Julie says she has learned how to be a role model for her own daughters and others around her. She continues to share her experiences and engage with the women at Rockford, letting them know that, “there is no ceiling. If you work hard and let your aspirations be known, you can get there.”
Wrapping up her current career experience, Julie shares how she loves the people and how she feels challenged every single day. I learn something every day that I didn’t know the day before. If I wasn’t being challenged, if I didn’t have the opportunity to learn new things, and I didn’t truly love the people I worked with, I don’t think it would be very fun. I think it would just be a job, not a career that I really want to excel in.”